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Sakamoto, Mathieson make biggest impact for victorious Giants

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Hayato Sakamoto put on a show with his bat a few nights ago in Hiroshima, but saved just enough to ensure the Chunichi Dragons wouldn’t feel left out.

Sakamoto drove in three runs, Shinnosuke Abe homered, and reliever Scott Mathieson pulled the Kyojin‘s feet out of the fire late as the Yomiuri Giants sent the Dragons below .500 with a 4-3 win on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.

“Sakamoto came up big tonight with the timely hits and three RBIs,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.

On Tuesday, Sakamoto hit a pair of home runs and drove in four runs in a victory against the Hiroshima Carp. He padded his numbers with another productive night against Chunichi on Friday. The Yomiuri shortstop drove in two runs with a single in the second inning and brought in another run with his double in the sixth.

“I did not think I hit the ball that well but managed to get it to the fence,” Sakamoto said of his towering RBI single that just missed being a home run. “With two outs, I was just trying to keep the inning alive.”

Sakamoto, who was named to the Central League All-Star team earlier this week, raised his batting average to .292 and upped his RBI total to 26 on the year.

Yomiuri led 4-1 heading into the top of the eighth and nearly let the lead slip away. Chunchi rallied for a pair of runs off reliever Ryota Katsuki to make the score 4-3. The Dragons loaded the bases later in the inning against Yuya Kubo, the third Yomiuri reliever of the inning. Hara then summoned Mathieson from the bullpen to face pinch hitter Naomichi Donoue.

The Canadian hurler retired Donoue on one pitch, then kept the Dragons off the scoreboard in the ninth to pick up his 14th save of the season.

Mathieson also helped keep starter Kan Otake (6-3) in the decision.

“I had confidence our bullpen could hold the lead,” Otake said. “The relievers did not let me down.”

Otake threw 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball to earn his first win since getting the decision against the Hanshin Tigers on May 9, a span of six starts.

“I felt some pressure, but was more relaxed after my offense got me the lead,” Otake said.

Abe, another Yomiuri All-Star, did his part for his pitcher with a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth.

“Abe’s condition is getting better day by day, and his home run was huge in a one-run game,” Hara said.

All-Star outfielder Yohei Oshima homered for Chunichi and Hector Luna and Kazuhiro Wada each drove in a run, both in the eighth. Anderson Hernandez had a solid night as well, finishing 3-for-5 with a double.

Starter Yudai Ono didn’t have an All-Star caliber performance, though he was also named to the team, allowing four runs on nine hits over six innings. Ono (4-4) lost for the first time since April 26, ending his streak of winning decisions at four.

Carp whip Swallows

Hiroshima
KYODO

Hiroshima’s Brad Eldred extended his Japan-best home run total to 28 with a pair of homers and four RBIs, and ace Kenta Maeda (8-4) allowed a run in seven innings in the Carp’s 7-1 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Friday.

Tigers 3, BayStars 2

At Shizuoka’s Kusanagi Stadium, Matt Murton erased a two-run deficit in the sixth inning with his ninth home run, and Kentaro Sekimoto’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly plated the decisive run in the eighth inning as Hanshin rallied to beat Yokohama.

PACIFIC LEAGUE
Hawks 3, Eagles 2

At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Shinya Tsuruoka broke a tie in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift Fukuoka Softbank to a come-from-behind sayonara victory over Tohoku Rakuten.

With two on and one out in the ninth against right-handed reliever Hiroyuki Fukuyama (2-1) and the Eagles outfield playing in for a potential play at the plate, Tsuruoka lined a 1-2 fastball into the gap in right to send Softbank to its third straight win. Tsuruoka was credited with a double.

Yuki Yanagita opened the inning by drawing a leadoff walk. After a sacrifice advanced him to second, Yuichi Honda was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play. But Fukuyama missed in the heart of the zone and Tsuruoka ripped it.

“I saw where they were playing me and knew if I hit it hard enough it would get through,” said Tsuruoka, a Kyushu native who joined the Hawks as a free agent in the offseason.

“(Leadoff man Akira) Nakamura was on deck and I knew he had a good chance of doing something, so I basically wanted to stay out of a double play so Akira could decide it.”

The Eagles took the lead on a first-inning RBI double by Andruw Jones and John Bowker’s seventh homer, a solo shot, in the sixth.

After five scoreless innings from former closer Koji Aoyama, Rakuten went to the bullpen in the sixth and blew the lead on Yuya Hasegawa’s two-out, two-run double off recently acquired right-hander Rhiner Cruz. Rookie southpaw Yuki Matsui got the visitors out of danger, and worked a scoreless seventh but it was fraught with danger. The rookie walked two batters, but second baseman Kazuya Fujita robbed Yuki Yoshimura of a leadoff single with a superb leaping catch, and center fielder Ryo Hijirisawa saved two runs with a leaping catch near the warning track to end the inning.

Right-hander Ryota Igarashi stopped the Eagles 1-2-3 in the eighth, and Sarfate survived a pair of singles to work a scoreless ninth and earn his fourth win.